Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hearing My Daughters Voice For the First Time

Hearing my new daughter’s voice 1967 Viet Nam

(C) James J. Alonzo·

Back in the 1960’s There was a group of Ham operators known as MARS, who offered to make calls in the USA and connect them by radio (2 way air waves), and the Soldiers could call home. It cost $20.00 for three minutes, which was a lot of money back then, but still there were long lines, to access the phones.

December 1, 1967, The red cross had stopped by at my base camp to inform me on my daughter’s birth and told me I had a child born that day. So the next chance I had, I drove to Saigon, where the nearest MARS Station was. I waited in line for over two hours.

“Merry Christmas, Nanci? Over.”“

"Jamie, is it you? Are you home?”

"You have to say OVER,” Chuckling, “when you’re finished talking honey. OVER”“OK, over.”“No, I’m still in Nam. I’m calling over radio phone from Saigon; they call it the MARS program*. I only have three minutes. I love you, OVER”

"Jamie, I love you too, OVER.”

“How is the family?”

I shot off as much sentences as I could, because twenty dollars gave me only three minutes.

“Tell them I love them and I miss them. How is the Baby? I am so proud of you. I love you, OVER”

“Oh Jamie,” Hearing the urgency in my voice, “every one is well and I will tell them, OVER.”

“I am so proud of you having the baby without me there. Is She there with you now? OVER.“

“She’s sleeping Jamie. OVER”

“Sleeping, Oh God, I wish I could hear my daughter! OVER.”

“I’ll go get her and bring her to the phone. OVER“


I could hear Nanci put the phone down and heard her talking to the baby. I was hoping that maybe I could at least hear her coo or something. Then I heard Nanci pick up the phone.

“Jamie, she is in my arms now, but she’s still sound asleep. OVER”

“One minute remaining” crackled the operator over the phone line, reminding us this call was about to end.

“Nanci there is so little time, please wake her up, so I can hear my baby. OVER”

“Come on Sherri, Daddy’s on the phone wake up,” I could hear Nanci trying to wake Sherri, “Jamie, she’s sound asleep, I just shook her a little and she won’t wake up. OVER”

“Oh Sweetie,” I said crying, ”Please wake her up. OVER”

“Ok,” Nanci said, then I heard Sherri started to cry, and I thought my God, what a beautiful sound.

“Oh Baby, she sounds beautiful, and loud! What a set of lungs! OVER”

“I pinched her bottom, I hope she will forgive me! OVER”

“30 Seconds remaining,” crackled the operator.

“Nanci I love you, and I will be home in six months, I promise! OVER.”

“I love you too, Jamie, be careful, ok? OVER.”

“Yeah, I will. I love you! OVER”

“END OF CALL,” said the operator.

*MARS – Military Affiliate Radio System – provided for a fee, ($20.00), unless you were of the Officer Corp, then no charge. Real time contact with families back in the land of the free during the Vietnam war, as it continues to do today for other servicemen and women overseas.

This was pre-Internet days and used HF radio to run “Phone Patches” where the serviceman in Vietnam could ‘connect’ through a MARS radio station with a MARS station in the U.S., who would then make the connection through a phone line to the family.

Thus, ‘Phone Patch’.Mars operators on both sides of the Pacific’ who provided the link between servicemen and families. Operators were required to monitor each call, for stuff folks weren’t supposed to say, and more importantly flip the transmit/receive switch, a routine where the operator listened to what anybody said, and when they heard, “OVER” the operator would flip the switch. Watching the 3 minute time limit, or translating if the freq was going “down”, was more the focus of the call.

© Copyright 2011 James J Alonzo All rights reserved.
James J Alonzo has granted Agent Orange Legacy its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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